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The Litmus Test for Effective Teams


What is one thing that distinguishes high performing teams? Having worked with many executive teams across a diverse range of industries, I have discovered that I only need to look at one behavior as the litmus test for whether the team is high performing or not. That behavior is feedback.


Feedback Matters

Why is feedback such a powerful sign of team effectiveness?

  1. Feedback is a sign that the team members trust each other and are prepared to be vulnerable with each other instead of investing their time and energy in protecting themselves from each other.
  2. Overcoming the normal fear and reluctance that most of us have to giving or receiving feedback signals that each team member is committed to the team achieving its results. Both commitment and focus on results are essential for team functioning.
  3. Feedback between leadership team members facilitates learning. A learning team is better able to perceive, make sense of, and adapt and respond to complex and challenging environments.

Team Feedback Tips

Here are some ideas if you want to introduce feedback as a regular practice in your leadership team:


Make it real: Avoid online 180 or 360-degree feedback that is anonymous. Sure, the data may be valid, but the underlying message it promotes is that we don't trust each other enough to give it candidly, or receive it with good grace.


Work on resistance: Most of us have built-in resistance to giving candid feedback, or to receiving it openly. Sometimes it's a simple matter of learning feedback skills but more often it’s because we hold limiting beliefs or assumptions that get in the way. These can be overcome but they must first be surfaced and acknowledged.


Make spontaneous feedback the goal: When I teach teams how to give and receive feedback we often start by doing it in a structured and controlled way. My wish for every team however is that they learn to do it in the moment. This is the path to a more agile learning team.


Most importantly, help the team to remember: There’s no such thing as failure – only feedback.